Even though I know that God does not relate to time in the same way that we do, I nonetheless marvel at His patience looking forward to the complete fulfillment of this day. I have alluded to what this day represents at least one time in a previous sermon; but there is more, much more, than what I said then.
I want to give us a bit of an insight. I want to help us to be impressed with a concept that reveals somewhat the scope of God's mind. He does not do things in a haphazard way that is in any way dependent upon our reaction. He is in absolute control.
I want to reinforce that concept just a little bit by showing some other scriptures. I want to show you that, whoever the author of the book of Hebrews was, he was not way out on a limb when he said the works were finished from before the foundation of the earth.
He had that all planned out. He knew where He was headed.
Paul was not the only one who wrote about this.
That ties right into Ephesians 1:4, but Peter makes this very clear in verses 18-20.
Those four or five verses together essentially mean that, at the very least, the major steps involved in His plan—and most assuredly the overall purpose and final goal—were already determined before the earth was ever created.
Now, how long ago was that? It was previously suggested by the scientists who look into these things that the earth gave indication of being four billion years old. But recently I heard a program that mentioned that it might be in excess of ten billion years old. For mankind, it has only been about 6,000 years since Adam and Eve.
In regard to time, and having a goal I want to accomplish, I know that my proclivity is to get on with what I want to do immediately. I can hardly wait to see what I want accomplished done and over with, so that I can enjoy the fruits of my labor.
Men really do not know the age of the earth. At best, it is an educated guess. But they toss figures like "billions," and even "trillions," around as if we can somehow comprehend them. How long is a second? It is just a blink of an eye. One billion, though, is so large a figure that it is difficult for us to grasp that it takes 31 years and 9 months to consume one billion seconds. One trillion is one thousand billion. So we have to add three zeros on to that. Thus, one trillion seconds ago was almost 32,000 years ago!
One thing I know for sure is that God's operations are huge! So huge are the distances involved in space that scientists measure them in light years. A single light year is the distance that light travels in one year's time while moving at the rate of 86,000 miles per second. That is over 5 million miles in one minute, and 309 million in one hour. The nearest star, other than our sun, is 4.6 light years distance.
I do not know how far the edge of heaven is; but I do know that God has populated it with billions of galaxies, each containing roughly (so say the star gazers) 100 billion stars. How many planets spin their way around those stars must be beyond counting.
I began this sermon as I did because I want us to be impressed by the One who sits at the controls of the creation, because we are involved with Him in an intimate and personal relationship. He is our Creator, Savior, High Priest, soon coming King and Husband. And it is a measure of our foolish childishness to give such little concern about His reality and to somehow ignore the consequences of our attitudes and conduct.
Can an intimate relationship be symbolized by anything closer than a marriage? Our Husband-to-be sits at the right hand of the Father who created all things through Him. Together They are working out the plan They had completed before the actual work began, and They are working towards what this day [The Last Great Day] prophetically symbolizes. And what this day signifies is huge too!
Demographers estimate that some 40-50 billion humans have trod the earth and died since Adam and Eve. That 50 billion, though, is a tiny figure compared to the huge numbers of galaxies, stars, and planets. However, all of those heavenly bodies are nothing more than inanimate creations. But those 40-50 billion who have trod the earth have been living humans in the image of God.
How much is a human life as a potential God-being worth? The value of even one "God" is greater than all that He has made and all that He is. And we are talking here about potentially billions of them.
When you think about 40 or 50 billion potential Gods and what this day means, it is no wonder that it is called the Last Great Day. It is great! It is awesome! It is mind numbing! It is huge in its implications. But, by contrast, it is very easy for us to feel overlooked; to feel lost or insignificant in the 5 billion or so throng living on earth today.
Just in case you do not think that you matter, look again at the testimony of some who have gone before us—to understand another aspect of the immense capacity of God's mind. Even if this is understood only in terms of what we understand as the present size of God's Family, what we are going to read reflects a Mind of amazing capacity.
Let us first go to Psalm 139, where we are going to read 18 verses. Try to hang on to some of the concepts that the author is speaking of. This is attributed to David, and it certainly sounds to me like something that he would write. He loved God, and he thought about God often—meditated on His word constantly, and looked forward to the time when he too would be in that Kingdom and he too would have some of the capacity that he reveals in the mind of God.
Now consider that the population in David's day was undoubtedly a great deal smaller and how many more children God had, I do not know. But certainly David was one of His children. Put yourself in David's place. Surely God's family has spread out, expanded somewhat, since David's time. But that God was able to concentrate His mind not only on David but on other things that were going on in His creation as well is mind-boggling. We see the intricacy and complexity of God knowing David.
Actually, that word "compass" means comprehend. He already knew, as it were, where David was headed.
That begins to show us that His knowledge of David went back far beyond when he was born.
What a mind! Are we to understand that He only kept track of David like this? Surely we are to understand that He is keeping track of you and me like this as well. There is not only power that is revealed in this, but love and patience that He has with us. And He is able to keep track of His children. He knows what is going on in their lives—from before birth to right on down to now. As great as the other operations that He is tending, all He has made, He knows us individually—inside and out, up and down, from top to bottom.
Isaiah had something similar to say. It is brief. At the time it was written, it was directly applied to the nations of Israel (Judah really); but it applies to you and me too. Zion can apply to Jerusalem, or we can apply the spiritual aspects to the church. Sometimes we say things like this.
Do not we at times feel detached from Him—thinking He is unaware, that He does not notice, that He does not see our plight, that He does not understand our feelings, or He does not care about them? All of us feel that way from time to time. But in His Word He is shown pleading, watching, guiding, waiting to see what kind of choices we will make. These choices help form us into what we will be.
That is, the example of Israel in the wilderness. And then a reason is given.
I do not know whether you realize it or not, but this is a New Testament parallel of Psalm 139. It is compressed, to be sure; but it is nonetheless saying exactly the same thing.
These verses speak of the One we deal with. The "word of God" here is two things. First, it indicates Jesus Christ. The proof of this is in verse 13, where the pronouns "His" and "Him" are used along with the noun "eyes" to refer the reader to verse 12, so that one will understand that the Word of God is God. Clearly, in these two verses, the primary focus is on a Being. This is the One with whom we have to do.
Secondarily, it is used of the Bible. It too is the Word of God. At the time that this was written, it specifically referred to the Old Testament. But now the New Testament is also included. This particular use is for the practical day-to-day studying, meditating, instruction in righteousness, spiritual cleansing, and understanding that we need in order to be useful in God's Family.
So we have two things going on here at once. Our God and High Priest, our Savior, our Husband-to-be is alive; and He fits the description there (in these two verses). But we also have the word of God to read from—so that we can understand Him, His mind, and His purpose that much better.
I introduced this subject in this way because there are times when we appreciate neither the immensity of the power and the abilities and also the loving generosity of God's mind nor the greatness of our inheritance with Christ. Remember I John 3:1-3. We are going to be like Him!
You will recall that I spent some time, during my sermon on the first holy day, on the rest of God. The word "rest" is a code word that the ancient Israelites adopted to keep the promises in mind. The author of Hebrews then used that word to encourage and stimulate our thinking about the fact that this promise—made to Abraham—still awaits the people of God. Israel's entering the Promised Land under Joshua was merely a tiny, tiny, miniscule shadow (or type) of what we are going to inherent.
In that sermon, I carried the fulfillment of that as far as inheriting the earth. Even inheriting the earth is awesome to contemplate. But is it possible that there is even more? Do you recall that this very book that we are in right now—Hebrews—opened by stating that Jesus is appointed heir of all things. And, in other places, it informs us that we are co-heirs with Him.
We are going to take a look at some of the events prophesied to occur from this point out, so we will at least have an overview. As we begin, also understand that all of this we are about to see is a part of the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham and to his descendants—Israel and Judah (the physical nations) and the church of God (the spiritual one).
I will go over a little bit of what John Reid went over the other day to try to approach it from this particular standpoint that we are involved with right here. I am going to go back to Revelation 20 to set the springboard and the time.
Here we have an overview of the first resurrection. I am not going to go into every detail covered here, but there is enough to show that those in the first resurrection—the firstfruits—are going to receive authority to govern and also be spiritual leaders.
This perfectly agrees with Revelation 20, because those in the first resurrection were on thrones; and it also said that they would be priests. The pronoun "us" here is written from the standpoint of the author, John. Thus "us" refers to John and to his brethren—the children of God, the firstfruits.
Christ is a King of kings. That is a superlative. But also, in its practical sense, it means that there are other kings—others with governing authority—who are under Him; and He has the greatest authority of all.
Putting these several scriptures together, those in the first resurrection will be the kings under Christ, the King of kings. Since He is also High Priest, I might add (although the Bible does not state it directly), He is High Priest of priests; and those in the first resurrection will be the priests under Him.
Another reason I bring that up is this seems to be the extent of those who will be in the first resurrection—144,000—as God begins to build His Family, His Kingdom. Christ will be ruling over earth; and the firstfruits, those who are in the first resurrection, will be sharing that rule with Him and will be His agents—carrying out His purpose.
Now, over whom will they rule? In order to understand this, we must step back in time before the resurrection to the Tribulation and the Day of the Lord. The prophecy in Jeremiah 30 sets the stage for the events that immediately precede Christ's return by at least 1260 days. That is the minimum.
That is saying that there was a time when He brought these people into captivity in the past. So this is, at least, a second time.
At "bring again" my margin says "bring back from captivity." So, even as this prophecy begins, God is already showing a gathering of Israel and Judah—both nations that are pictured in the prophecy—as separate nations. The implication is that Israel and Judah are separated before going into captivity. We see this condition already in existence in our time. But the prophecy moves on because, after verse 3, he states that this is the time of Jacob's trouble.
This is the worse thing that Israel and Judah have ever gone through, and it still lays ahead. There is no comparable period of time in the history of those people.
It is interesting that God switched names from "Israel and Judah" to "Jacob's." Jacob is the name that is used prophetically by God, and sometimes historically as well, to indicate both nations at the same time. They began as one. They split. They are still split. But here, in this prophecy, He is showing that they are both going to be caught at the same time, in the same trouble—Jacob's trouble!
Both of them are going to be crushed by attacks from foreign nations, following being weakened by a series of internal problems. We are not going to go into every aspect of this; but I am talking about weather problems, disease problems. It may even include internal disunity problems, because both nations will suffer from internal civil strife. Both nations will be driven from their homelands and scattered in nations foreign to them, and I will give you proof of that.
The people of Israel and Judah—Jacob together—are both going to be driven into captivity. Right now, there is no doubt at all but that Israel of the two is a very, very powerful nation. The only way that it can be brought down, really, is internally. There are multitudes of ways we can be brought down internally so that we will be much easier pickings than we otherwise would be.
That is very clear. Assemble for the second time the outcasts of Israel from the four corners of the earth. So we know now that this scattering is going to be earth-wide in scope. But when does the gathering begin? The Bible gives us a general time for when it is going to start. In the prophecy in Hosea, they are already in their captivity. God says through Hosea:
When Ephraim is used, it is a code word for Israel—since Ephraim, at the time, was the dominant tribe.
The rescue of Jacob—the rescue of Israel and Judah—will begin sometime in the third year of their captivity. Just in case we might think these prophecies may apply to some other time, or that they might have been fulfilled some time in the past:
He is not talking about a former time. This is something for "the latter days." Those latter days are yet ahead of us in terms of this prophecy.
You certainly would not be at rest in captivity. But sometime in that third year God is going to begin to move dramatically. He is going to begin to grant the Israelitish people repentance, and they are going to open their hearts and minds to Him. They are going to begin to turn to Him because they will be caused to remember some of the things from the time before, when they heard the Word of God. Somehow, someway, that instruction has been there. God has seen to that. And He will begin to bring it to mind.
Then this begins to show where they are scattered again.
This makes it absolutely certain that this time lies just before us. David is going to be resurrected when all of us will be resurrected. So we are talking about something that lies just before us. Where will they go, when God rescues?
There is no other place that they will be taken at first except the area of Jerusalem—the area which was given to Abraham—from the river Nile and the Mediterranean Sea eastward to the Tigris and Euphrates valley. You can write down Jeremiah 23:1-8 because that series of verses encapsulates just about everything; but it also, again, clarifies even more clearly what the time element will be. That is, when Jesus Christ will be King over David; and that includes all of the kings mentioned in Revelation 15 and so forth.
So, they go back there. What happens then?
What we are seeing here is like a pebble being dropped into a nice, smooth, still pond. Israel is established in the area of Jerusalem. They come under the government of God. And once the regathered Israelites are beginning to settle into their homeland, the expansions—the ripples—begin to go out from there. The expansion of God's government over other nations also begins.
We can see from Isaiah 2:3 that people will be attracted to Israel by their example of both physical and spiritual prosperity. They will travel to Israel to find out what makes it tick. Why are all these good things happening? Israel will share their knowledge, their understanding, and their spiritual prosperity especially. And the people will discover that the reason is in Israel's relationship with God.
You can see the time element here. It fits right in.
Israel is going to witness to the nations. This is what God originally intended that they fulfill, when He brought them out of Egypt under Moses; but they would not do it. Then they will. You can see again that this clearly applies to something yet future.
John Reid gave you the scriptures in Ezekiel 47, which shows the water coming out from under the temple of God. And everywhere it goes, a huge river flows out from under there; and it heals whatever it touches. That is a type of God's Holy Spirit also emanating from the same place. Even as the physical things are healed, people's minds are also healed.
So Christ returns. The reconstruction begins. Israel begins to grow into a great and wonderful nation, and shares its knowledge of God with the other nations around the world. This goes on for a thousand years. Then:
It seems incredible, but some are still going to be so hardened—even after a thousand years of God ruling through Jesus Christ. They are hardened and easily deceived. Then they weed themselves out of God's purpose—taking up Satan's side, and fighting against God. They, of course, will lose—even as Satan has lost every battle with God. But these things that we are seeing here reveal God's justification for putting him and his followers into the Lake of Fire.
He is showing that they cannot be changed, any more than Satan can be changed. They have the same mindset he does and would repeatedly rebel—even though surrounded, indeed immersed, in the blessings God alone is able to give.
Then comes the second resurrection. That is what is being spoken of here, in verses 11-12. The second resurrection was alluded to in verse 6 with the mention of the word "first." If there is a first, there must be at least a second. Here is the second. It is a resurrection to physical life of all humans who have ever been born and died without knowledge of the truth.
How can we know this? The answer here could get quite complex and involve the use of a lot of scriptures. But there is a foundational principle that is found in II Peter 3:9, which says that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
There is only one opportunity for everybody. We are having ours right now, and we must not waste it on mere vanities. These people coming up in the second resurrection, I again believe, are going to overwhelmingly accept God's purpose and devote their lives to pleasing Him once they have the truth about God reproducing Himself and what our inheritance is. Then, life will make sense to them; and it will have an overriding purpose.
You can write down Isaiah 65:19-20. I want you to understand that, at best, these verses only hint that God is going to give them a fair opportunity to grow and overcome. I say "hint" because, in the wider context of this paragraph that these verses appear in, it appears to be more directly tied to the Millennium than to the Last Great Day.
We know this: Revelation 20:12 confirms that when these people are made alive—all in the second resurrection—they are then going to be judged out of the books. That is, all of the standards that are written in the entire Bible—just as you and I are experiencing today in the time of our calling. God is going to judge them in the same way that He is judging us. He is giving us plenty of time to accumulate knowledge and understanding, and to put it to work in our lives. This all fits within the doctrine of eternal judgment.
In addition to that, that verse says that the Book of Life is opened. This is also mentioned incidentally in Revelation 3:5; and it is an important context there because it shows that those Christians will have their names written in the Book of Life if they overcome. That is exactly what is happening here in Revelation 20:12. These people are being judged. They are responding to God. And the Book of Life is opened so that their names can be entered in.
They had not been judged before. That is the only conclusion that can rightly be reached there. These are people who never had an opportunity for salvation. And it clearly infers that these people went into the grave not having had an opportunity for salvation. They lived and died in ignorance of God's purpose. Thus, they had no opportunity to prepare; and this will be their opportunity.
As God's purpose unfolds, you can see a pattern here. It opens the knowledge of God to more and more people. The 144,000 and all of those millions of people during the Millennium; and then we begin to see billions of people in the second resurrection, when all of those people who died without ever having an opportunity get to have their opportunity. Do you see how things are expanding out, more and more? As God goes along, He trains people to assist Him in this process.
The firstfruits are, by comparison, even to those who will come up in the Millennium, a very tiny group. And those who come up in the Millennium will live and die in the Millennium, following the first resurrection. They will be a much larger group. And finally this group is so large that I honestly believe the entire Millennium will be spent preparing for that resurrection.
You might wonder how the earth could hold that many people—40 to 50 billion at one time. But again, I have read of demographers with no connection at all to the church (as far as I know, no connection at all to the Bible) who say that, when you look at the earth and all of those places that are barren right now—the Sahara Desert, the Gobi Desert, the great western desert in the United States, all of those places that are uninhabitable—if they got rain and they got the right kind of weather, and the soil was fertile; believe it or not, they said the earth can easily hold 40 billion people. Easily!
We are not done yet. To me it gets more exciting.
Why were they cast into the Lake of Fire? The answer is easy. They are no longer needed. Nobody is ever going to die again.
That is the third resurrection, there in verse 14. Notice also that he mentioned the Lake of Fire.
Did you see that? The whole earth is going to burn up. Not just one little spot on earth, but the whole earth is going to burn up—and heaven too.
When you dissolve something in a glass of water, it disappears. He is talking about the heavens disappearing.
Remember, Christ is going to inherit everything. We are joint-heirs with Him. So we are going to inherit everything. He is going to share that with us.
What is that "glorious liberty of the children of God" going to include? You are going to have [eternal] bodies and minds. Nothing in you will ever decay. Nothing will ever be done in futility.
Here Paul personifies or makes the creation alive, as it were—thinking and experiencing pain.
We know they are going to get burned up. They are going to dissolve.
Obviously, the earth as it is now—and we, as we are now—are not like God. God remains.
Paul personifies the entire creation so that if it could think and feel, it would groan with what it has to endure. It was purposefully made subject to decay. But decay is something that God Himself never does. He never gets weary. He does not grow old. But the creation is looking forward to a time and occasion that occurs to it when the sons of God are revealed.
So a creation that decays is not something that God would ever provide for Himself and His Family to live in permanently, because it does not fit Their natures; and neither will it fit the nature of His children. The earth as it is now fits the nature of humankind. The good news for the personified creation is that freedom from this intense subjugation to decay is on its way, so that it will be relieved of its pain.
Even as the children of God are going to be glorified, so also is the creation going to receive a measure of glorification. Like the children, the new creation will never weary or grow old, following its delivery from birth pangs. And those birth pangs are the parallel of what the children have gone through.
God is showing us that this present earth—universe—is not a suitable inheritance for His children. You can begin to see that we are not going to inherit the earth as it is. It is junk compared to what God is going to give us. The earth is stained with all the corruption of sin.
They dissolved. God burned them up; and the ashes and the dust He just blew away—away from this universe.
Notice the next words He says:
That is it. The work that He began before the foundation of the world—boom, it is over. I would have put an exclamation point there. He put a period. Then He follows it up by saying:
Now, let me give you a summary:
I am not sure of all the author is referring to by "a better resurrection." There is no doubt that at least one resurrection is better than the two that follow it. It is the one that we are called to. There is a great deal on the line in our lives, and how we spend what remains may very well tell which resurrection we are going to be in.
The future that has been offered us is great. There is every reason for giving our all, holding back nothing, and sacrificing whatever we must do in order to overcome, please, and glorify God, and be in that better resurrection.